Monday, November 19, 2007

Smoked Ribs


I stood outside Lundy's the other night peering through the dusty window.

At one time, this seafood place on Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay was the supposedly the largest restaurant in America.

My father told me that he walked in there one night and there were over 2,000 people in the place. But that was years ago and now Lundy's is just an empty shell.

I was coming from a family birthday party and I stopped by to look at the place before walking back to the train station. It was hard to imagine all those bodies in this empty place.

I googled "Lundy's" tonight and in addition to getting hits about the famous restaurant, I also came across web sites devoted to an apparently fierce conflict in Canada called the Battle of Lundy's Lane that took place during the War of 1812.

While I'm certainly no historian, it bothered me that I had never heard of this particular encounter, which one site described as "the battle bloodiest ever fought on Canadian soil."

But that was a long time ago and now, besides the battle, you also get hits about the Comfort Inn located in Lundy's Lane.

Put Up Yer Dukes!

The dinner was pleasant and I was glad I was actually able to attend. I had taken a mean shot to the ribs during a boxing class on Thursday that hurt so much I was convinced I had some broken bones.

The funny thing--and when I say "funny" I mean "messed up"--was that I wasn't sparring, at least not officially.

The trainer was just working me with the mitts, but with this particular fellow, these mitt sessions can start to resemble a UFC title fight.

Wilton, a very nice guy, I might add, throws kicks, sweeps, backhands, all the stuff that Marquess of Queensberry said you shouldn't do. The class is labeled "boxing" on the gym web site, but perhaps Wilton doesn't search the net much.

He faked for my head, which I blocked, then threw a shot to my body, which I didn't. I grunted and kept going, but by two o'clock that afternoon I could barely walk.

The really strange thing--and when I mean "strange" I actually mean "strange"--was that I was feeling particularly positive that day.

I had lost one of my hand protector gloves, these fingerless numbers that are supposed to take the place of hand wraps, a week earlier--and then I found it on Thursday.

It is easier slipping these gloves on than wrapping your hands up like the Mummy, but they can be a little tight. I complained to a friend that the fingers in my left hand were getting numb during class and then--zap!--I lose one of the gloves.

Apparently celestial forces were at work. Or I'm just careless.

I went back to wrapping my knuckles, which I really disliked, since it takes so damn long and all my wraps are chewed up from years of abuse.

I called the gym, but, of course, no one had turned in my missing glove. So I wrote it off and planned on going on with the hand wrap routine.

On the way into work on Thursday, I gave my seat to a woman who go on at DeKalb Avenue. She was middle-aged, a working woman, and she really appreciated the seat. I was tired, but I thought she needed the seat more. And, hell, I sit all day at the job.

I go to my gym at lunch and then--zap!--there's my missing glove, just sitting on top of the equipment cage. Someone had assumed it belonged to the gym and tossed it into the cage with all the other gym equipment.

You see, I told myself, you do a good deed and get rewarded.

And then Wilton smashed me in the ribs.

I'm not sure how that part fits into the cosmic plan and I'm starting to suspect there ain't no plan, that we're all just kind of sailing through space here.

Mangia, Mangia


But at least I was able to make it to the birthday dinner. I had the shrimp fra diavolo and everyone at the table forced me to have dessert. I put up a struggle, but eventually I threw in the towel and ordered the tartufo.

Most of us will be meeting up again on Thanksgiving Day and--here it comes--I can't believe the holidays are upon us again.

I made this brilliant observation to the cashier at my local butcher shop and she nodded in agreement.

"People are so busy, so stressed," she said, "that they don't realize that time is flying by."

Quite true. I find it hard to believe I'm 50, but I was still one of the youngest people at the dinner table.

When we were leaving, I helped one of the guests out to a waiting car. She was on a walker, and nervous, having recently fallen. It felt familiar, as I had done this for my mother and father not so long ago.

We crossed Emmons Avenue, which apparently turns into a speedway after dark. I had my eye on one set of headlights that was coming straight at us, and I was muttering, "you are going to stop for us, aren't you, big guy?"

He did, fortunately, but when we got the lady to the car, the vehicle was so high up from the street, that this poor woman couldn't raise her foot high enough to get in.

It's hard to believe that someone could be that frail and constricted, but this is what happens when we age. It's tough, it's unfair, but there's no point in complaining.

We decided to call car service for this woman, and, so we had to walk back across Emmons Avenue. You can feel awfully vulnerable when you're there in the traffic with someone on a walker. But we made it.

"I don't know what I'd do without you," the woman said, which is the same thing my father told me last year when we brought him back from the nursing home in Coney Island.

It's touching to hear those words. It's also a little scary because I have no children and I'm not getting any younger. The holidays keep coming faster and faster and one day--if I make it--I'll be the one on the walker looking for help.

I thought about how important it is to enjoy life while you still can because time whips by so quickly. The meal was over by 8:30 p.m., still early on a Saturday night.

But I wound up going home and watching a DVD, which is a habit that needs to change.

Still, I had a nice meal with family, I got to take a stroll along Emmons Avenue, which, aside from some maniac drivers, is a hopping little spot.

And I actually helped a little old lady cross the street--twice.

And I've learned my lesson. Virtue really is its own reward and I do not expect any kind of divine compensation for doing a good deed. My ribs can't take it any more.

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